Longtime Colorado legislator leaves lasting legacy
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Former Colorado legislator Jack Taylor’s life reads like a well-written novel. He grew up on a farm in Iowa, played college baseball and was stationed on an icebreaker in the Antarctic during his stint with the Navy.
Sadly, his story came to an end on Wednesday morning at Casey’s Pond when the longtime public servant died at age 84 from COVID-19.
“He treated everyone he dealt with, even his opponents, with seriousness and respect,” longtime friend Tom Sharp said. “He went out of his way to try to find solutions to problems that could be solved by state activity, and if people had some problem with some state agency, he’d go to bat for them and try to call up the right people. He was just a really hard worker, and I think that made him very popular among the constituents because he got things done.”
On Thursday, Geneva, Jack’s wife of 46 years, remembered her husband as a man who was comfortable on the floor of the House and Senate, where he served the state of Colorado for 16 years. But she said her husband was most at ease when he could climb aboard the tractor that is parked in front of their home in Strawberry Park.
“If you drive out here by our house, you’re going see a backhoe and a tractor,” said Geneva. “Let me tell you, he was in his glory when he was on top of that tractor … when we first moved out here, he did all the irrigating for our neighbors. He loved it.”
Jack grew up on a farm in Iowa, went to college at Iowa State University where he played on the baseball team all four years and made an appearance in the College World Series. He served in the Navy and worked in New Orleans where he was involved in the production for the Apollo space crafts. He also spent time in Kuwait helping build an oil refinery.
Jack moved to Steamboat Springs in the early 1970s. He worked in real estate, owned a coal operation and helped start local baseball leagues. He married Geneva in December 1973.
But it was Jack’s record of public service that he was best known for. He was elected to the Colorado House of Representatives in 1992 and served there for eight years. He was elected to the State Senate in 2000, serving two terms.
Geneva still recalls the conversation she had with Jack after he was asked by fellow Republican Rep. Danny Williams to run for his seat after he had decided to step down.
“He was kind of in between doing real estate work, and he came to me and said, ‘Maybe this is something I need to do,’” Geneva said. “So he made the commitment, and he was elected, and he ended up running another time and then he ran for the Senate, twice. I’m glad he did it, and he was glad that he did it.”
She hopes her husband is remembered as a man who was trustworthy and who cared about his community, his friends and the state.
“His legacy is really serving the people,” she said. “That’s what he enjoyed the most, and helping his constituents resolve problems.”
Longtime friend Vance Halvorson said Jack might have been a member of the GOP, but he led from the center.
“He was a Republican, but he was in the center where he was able to cooperate and get along with Democrats and Independents and Republicans,” Halvorson said. “Another point of his philosophy was that when a bill came before him, I mean a real proposal, the first thing you figure out is how are you going to pay for it. So he was very conscious of being fiscally responsible. That was very, very important to him.”
Halverson said his friendship with Jack stretched for nearly 50 years. They both had offices in the basement of the Wells Fargo bank building just down the hall from one another. Halverson said his friend remained active in politics even after his final term ended in 2008.
“He was very well-liked and respected,” Sharp said. “I worked with him on some water bills and some other legislation and had an opportunity to have him introduce me to testify in the Senate and House committees several times, and he was very well-regarded by his colleagues. He was a hard-working representative for us all.”
Geneva said her husband underwent back surgery in October and was at the assisted care unit at Casey’s Pond for rehabilitation. He was expected to come home several weeks ago, but when Geneva was diagnosed with cancer, she realized she would not be able to provide the care her husband needed to recover.
“I’ve been in treatment for the last two months and I told him, ‘Jack there’s no way I’m going to be able to care for you.’ He knew it, and he was OK with that,” Geneva said. “I wanted to bring him home, but we just didn’t feel like I could handle that at the time.”
Jack was tested when the first cases of COVID-19 were discovered at the senior living facility and tested negative. He was later retested and found to be positive.
Geneva said she hadn’t been able to see Jack in more than two months, and she is thankful the entire family was able to connect virtually through Zoom twice in the final days of his life.
“Two days before he died, we were able to get all the family in on Zoom, and that’s our two grandkids and Vicki and myself. And his brother Bob was able to be on the phone,” Geneva said. “One of the nurses, bless her heart, took her laptop in so that Jack could see each one of us, and we could see him.”
The first day the family talked virtually, Geneva said her husband was tired, but on the second day, he rallied and created a moment that the whole family now treasures.
“He was conversing a lot more, and he smiled a lot that day when we got to talk to him, and we were encouraged,” Geneva said. “We were so thankful.”
Jack is survived by his wife, Geneva, his daughter, Vicki Bushner, and her children and his grandchildren Brianna Klamer and Dakin Bushner.
To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.
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Sheila Symons’ son got COVID-19 around Labor Day. He has since missed about five weeks of school, spent five days at Children’s Hospital in Aurora and has seen more doctors than an 11-year-old child should.